Untapped Potential


Recently, I was given a set of tickets to a minor league baseball game. We regularly take a group of teenagers to a game or two each season, so the head of group sales contacted me and invited me to sit behind home plate (which are great seats). I gladly accepted and took my wife on a date. I became familiar with the guy sitting next to us, whose name was Walker. He was a baseball scout who worked in the front office for a major league organization. Walker worked in player development, so as a sports fan, I had several questions.  As we talked, I thought about how fun his job must be! He gets to travel all over the place watching baseball games, looking for talent, and searching for untapped potential. My mind began to swirl with questions.  How cool would it be to get paid to watch sporting events? How many athletes are in the minor leagues just waiting around to be discovered? What if they never make full use of their potential? Am I making any use of my potential?  In I Samuel 13, we see a glimpse into the life of King Saul’s son, Jonathan. “Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel, Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel; whereof two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and in mount Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin…” (I Samuel 13:1-2) This account takes place early in the reign of Saul. The people had clamored for a king and ultimately they got one. Jonathan was the son of the king and heir-apparent to his father’s throne; talk about potential! “And Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it.” (I Samuel 13:3) I love that Jonathan did not rest on his father’s position, or his father’s power, or his father’s performance; rather, he desired to develop his own potential.

As Christians, I believe we can see three keys from the life of Jonathan that will allow us to maximize the talent the Lord has given us:

1. Don’t Dwell in the Past

Jonathan had won a great victory for Israel in chapter thirteen, but he did not dwell on his previous performance. Many people today accomplish something great for God, and then try and live in that moment the rest of their lives. I’m glad that was not Christ’s example. Each day He sought out to please His Father (See John 8:29) and we ought to do the same.

The Apostle Paul was no stranger to great accolades and accomplishments. “…If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews: as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” (Philippians 3:4-6) When it came to past success, there was no one in his day who could glory in them more than Paul, but he chose otherwise. “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.” (Philippians 3:7) Like Paul, Jonathan was not content to dwell in the victories of the past.

Whether your past is full of victories, or perhaps full of defeats; you cannot serve God tomorrow when you are dwelling in the past today.

2. Don’t Diminish the Present

Jonathan was not content to dwell in the past, one Philistine victory was not good enough for him—he wanted more success today! In I Samuel 14, Jonathan doesn’t waste any time beginning his next battle. Jonathan says to his armor bearer, “Come, and let us go over to the Philistines’ garrison, that is on the other side.” (I Samuel 14:1) It was as if Jonathan woke up that morning and said, “Today, I’m going to attempt something great for God.” And Jonathan fully expected God to come through as well. “And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the Lord will work for us: for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few.” (I Samuel 14:6)

He did not dwell in the past, nor did Jonathan diminish the present. He seized the opportunity that he had been given today. Every day we are presented with an opportunity, but what will we do with that opportunity? Mark Twain said, “I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.” I’m afraid Christians are often guilty of sharing the same sentiment.

“And that first slaughter, which Jonathan and his armourbearer made, was about twenty men…” (I Samuel 14:14) Two against twenty—it was evident that God was with them. My favorite part about that verse is the beginning, “that first slaughter,” implying that there were others. He made a habit of seizing opportunities. Jonathan was opportunistic in his actions—he wanted to do something great for God today! If that’s your desire, what are you waiting for?

3. Don’t Depend on the Future

Jonathan possessed incredible potential, not to mention he was in line to become Israel’s next king! I doubt anyone would have blamed him for waiting to use his talents until he was on the throne. However, had he waited, that time would have never come; his life would have been nothing but untapped potential.

The last recorded meeting between David and Jonathan is recorded in I Samuel 20. David insists that Saul is out to kill him, while Jonathan is not yet convinced. Listen to David’s words to his friend, “Thy father certainly knoweth that I have found grace in thine eyes; and he saith, Let not Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved; but truly as the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between me and death.” (I Samuel 20:3) Perhaps this realization encouraged Jonathan further in his tenacity for serving God with the time he was given.

Christian, I hope you’re not waiting for a scout to descend from the stands of life and pull you into the game. Teenager, I trust you’re not waiting to become an adult to choose to serve God with your life. Had Jonathan waited to become king, his life would have merely been untapped potential. None of us know how long we have on this earth. As David said to Jonathan, “there is but a step between me and death.” Jonathan was the heir to the throne and loaded with potential; his talent was limitless—but his time was not!

When my time on this earth has ended, will I have done anything with my talent that actually mattered for eternity? What about you? Are you maximizing your talents for God, or does your life consist of untapped potential?

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